Costume Triggers Boos, Backlash

Halloween is just around the corner. That means it’s time for companies to whip out the inappropriate and offensive costumes from their storage units and put them on sale, starting with Amazon.

Earlier this year, Caitlyn Jenner costumes received lots of criticism as distasteful. Now, Amazon is under fire for its “Lady Boy Drag” costume, which features a slip dress and fake male genitalia visible outside the dress.

According to the Amazon site, inflatable breast and a black wig could be purchased separately to complete the “tastelessly brilliant” look.

After generating backlash, Amazon pulled the costume from its site and issued a brief statement to Huffington Post.

Amazon U.K. press representative is quoted saying “All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The product in question is no longer available.”

But this effort did not slow the deluge of negative feedback.

If you were on Amazon’s PR team, how would you respond to the criticism?

Do you think Amazon handled the situation appropriately?

What should the company do moving forward?

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6 Responses to Costume Triggers Boos, Backlash

  1. Hannah Johnston says:

    I think Amazon did the right thing by taking the costume down. I do think they should do something to help fix the relationship with the trans community. And they should also make it public that they will have a stricter screening process for what gets posted on the website.

  2. Alexandra Long says:

    I do believe that Amazon made the right move by taking down the product. However, I would be interested to learn what process Amazon uses to approve products being sold on the site and how they plan to improve that vetting process. One of the key components of crisis communication is the act of assuring the aggrieved parties not only that the immediate problem is fixed, but also that your client has taken steps to ensure that the problem will not arise again in the future. Amazon has done the right thing in taking down the costume, but they cannot stop there. The statement by Amazon should have included some sort of update, improvement or plans for future improvements to the processes that allow products to be sold on the site. They may be dealing with this problem again in the near future because of this oversight.

  3. Courtney Bannon says:

    Amazon’s response seems silly to me, but not because I support that costume. Amazon sells a variety of costumes. They sell costumes where you can be a stereotype of practically anything. Are Mexicans accurately represented in costumes? Are Native Americans? There are also the sexist costumes that put women in short dresses even if the are dressing up as a firefighter. Do those accurately depict a profession, or how women in those professions look? If they are going to take a stand in one area, on one costume, they ought to reevaluate what costumes they choose to carry in general. It shouldn’t be a reactionary decision, but rather a proactive one.

  4. Teresa Joseph says:

    This is really interesting! I didn’t hear about this. Halloween costumes always get a lot of backlash especially when you’re dealing with culturally sensitive things. I do think it is really insensitive for Amazon to promote this. I do think Amazon should go on all of their social networking sites and publicly apologize for this being featured on their site. They should take a stance in supporting this issue, and state that they will make more of an effort to get rid of these offensive costumes in the future. Although they said it’s now no longer available, they never mentioned how they are going to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

  5. Tyler Otremba says:

    I think this kind of costume is vulgar, however it is Halloween, and people have the right to express themselves in whatever way they want. I think Amazon forcing its sellers to remove this costume is a form of censorship which could potentially cause problems for the brand. I also think this problem roots deeper than jut an inappropriate costume. It goes into equal rights issues and activist anger toward this concept. My personal opinion is there are rude, distasteful, and mean costumes of pretty much any celebrity that has a big name, or controversy around them and this costume is just another example of that. No one is immune to this, so Amazon should just let people sell and buy this on their website.

  6. Siera Whitten says:

    The sensitive topic of gender rights, equality and image has definitely been amplified ever since the appearance of Caitlyn Jenner, and she has become (for many) an example of showing your “true self” no matter what the public knew you as. If a costume earlier this year received a lot backlash, it was even more of a bad call for Amazon to feature a costume that taunts transgender people! I know that there has always been costumes that mock other people– and for a silly holiday like Halloween– you wonder if the people wearing these costumes are doing it “all in good fun” or in a hurtful way. I am sure it has never felt good to be made fun of, even if indirectly. Amazon did a good job of acting quickly to respond to the public, and they assured that the costume in question had been removed and that sellers must follow their guidelines or they will be removed. However, what if something happens like this again? How will they deal with it? Will they remove every offensive costume that is on the marketplace? That would be a lot of cleaning up, and then there might be the case of whether removing certain costumes is within the rights of Amazon, or if that reaches too far into censoring the sellers. I think it has to be speculated how far Amazon can go with removing items before we know what they would do if this were to happen again.

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